America is a melting pot, they say - a place where people from the world over have long sought refuge or a chance at the “American Dream”. Perhaps instead of the tired melting pot metaphor, we can think of this country as a tossed salad - whereby each “ingredient” remains unique but contributes to the whole.
The same is true when considering diversity within our schools. Students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, differing learning abilities, and various socioeconomic situations all bring meaningful contributions to the classroom experience and to a school’s community. Read on to discover ideas for how schools can recognize the value and uniqueness of each individual person, ultimately for the glory of God.
WHY DIVERSITY IS IMPORTANT
One facet of the gospel’s beauty is its ability to create a diverse church united by faith in the living God. The invitation of the gospel, facilitated by the Holy Spirit, knows no cultural boundaries and provides the proper foundation to celebrate God’s diverse creation, which enables the church to express the “manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10).
God is a unified diversity as represented by the Trinity. He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: three distinct persons united in their essence. So when the church embodies a unity in tandem with diversity, the triune image of God is shown. This should result in the worship of our Creator and Sustainer, who seeks to reconcile those near and far as the holy temple of God (Eph. 2). When we support and encourage intentional learning and community-building experiences, we corporately represent the image of God.
Events that highlight various cultures within a community can inspire and challenge us. We are called to love and embrace the fullness of God’s beautiful creation in the form of humanity. Celebrating those things that are unique about us helps everyone in our community to feel seen, loved, cared for, and given a sense of belonging.
So, your school or organization is ready to host a community-building, diversity-supporting event. Great! Now what? It’s time to choose your event(s). Ideas to consider include a monthly lunch-and-learn session, where people share their experiences. Or, perhaps your school could host a regular speaker series to highlight different voices from your community. A Block Party with food trucks and cultural entertainment is a sure-fire crowd pleaser. And, the ever-popular “International Night” is an immersive way to spotlight different cultures.
At Mount Paran Christian School, the biennial CultureFest event is a celebration of many cultures, symbolizing a theological truth. For Culture Fest, MPCS families sign up to serve as table hosts to share information about a country’s culture and traditions. The festive atmosphere includes foods from around the world, special musical and dance performances, crafts, and traditional attire. Attendees are presented with a “passport” upon entry and are encouraged to visit all the booths to have their passport “stamped”.
CultureFest is an opportunity for the MPCS community to experience unity while celebrating diversity. As an extension of the body of Christ, this gathering of believers reminds us that Jesus isn’t a stranger to any culture. CultureFest reminds us that, while the school is unified in Christ and as MPC Eagles, each individual brings beautifully different experiences and perspectives to the overall community, edifying the school as a whole.
6 TIPS FOR CULTURAL HOSPITALITY
When looking to create all-school events, it is important to really consider how those who will participate (and those who choose not to participate) in the event will feel and be affected. Aim to create events that feel inclusive so that all attendees will feel like they belong.
Here are some great lessons learned from Mount Paran Christian School. When you follow these ideas, your all-school events should be a success for everyone involved.
1. Pray. All events should be created with the primary and first purpose of bringing glory to God. Seek Him first for direction, insight, and creativity.
2. Know your “Why”. Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of this event?” Knowing why you want to host an event and recognizing the value it will bring to your community is key to successful planning.
3. Get your leadership on board. Your school’s administration, Board of Trustees, and volunteer leadership are there to provide insight, encouragement, and support. Whenever leadership attends your event, it elevates the importance of the event to your community.
4. Know your community. When you have a pulse on your community, you can create events your community will support and attend. It’s essential to have key community members involved in the planning process to create an event that will have a positive impact on your community’s relationships. Families from your community may not see themselves as “diverse”, but you can encourage them to share their family traditions and cultures. This allows families to get to know one another on a deeper level.
5. Focus on event promotion to create excitement. In the weeks leading up to CultureFest at MPCS, the host families were highlighted on social media and with digital signage throughout the campus. This generated excitement within the community.
6. Encourage participation. Consider providing educational incentives to your students to encourage attendance. This provides an initial motivation and buy-in for the teacher, students, and parents. At MPCS, teachers may choose to tie-in lesson units of study to CultureFest leading up to the event, generating excitement. Teachers also may choose to offer extra credit to upper school students who attend and submit a unique assignment in relation to the event.
Mount Paran Christian School received overwhelmingly positive feedback about CultureFest from our families, faculty, and students. It’s a testament how powerful community-building events like CultureFest can be for strengthening relationships, building understanding of others, and celebrating God’s diverse creation.